By: Andrew C. McCarthy
“In a word, the Grassley-Graham memo is shocking. Yet, the press barely notices.
(…) “The Grassley-Graham memo corroborates the claims in the Nunes memo: The Obama Justice Department and FBI used anonymously sourced, Clinton-campaign generated innuendo to convince the FISA court to issue surveillance warrants against Carter Page, and in doing so, they concealed the Clinton campaign’s role. Though the Trump campaign had cut ties with Page shortly before the first warrant was issued in October 2016, the warrant application was based on wild allegations of a corrupt conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Moreover, the warrant meant the FBI could seize not only Page’s forward-going communications but any past emails and texts he may have stored — i.e., his Trump campaign communications.”
(…) “Last Friday, the Nunes memo asserted that the FBI and Justice Department had significantly relied on the unverified Steele dossier to obtain FISA warrants on Page. In the week that followed, House Intelligence Committee Democrats and their media echo chamber bleated about how things had been taken out of context, with some suggesting that there was plenty of other evidence to establish probable cause that Page was acting as a Russian agent. (See my column last Sunday responding to claims by Representative Jerrold Nadler, here.) It was even implied that Nunes & Co. had deceptively reported committee testimony by the FBI’s then deputy director Andrew McCabe that the Steele dossier was essential to this probable-cause showing.
We’re not hearing much of that now. No wonder. Here’s the Grassley-Graham memo on the critical first FISA application, the basis for the warrant granted on October 21, 2016:
The bulk of the application consists of allegations against Page that were disclosed to the FBI by Mr. Steele and are also outlined in the Steele dossier. The application appears to contain no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations against Mr. Page, although it does cite to a news article that appears to be sourced to Mr. Steele’s dossier.
We’ll come to the news article — the stupefying circular attempt to corroborate Steele with Steele. For the moment, suffice it to say that the senators have confirmed the Nunes memo’s account, except with much more information than House Republicans were able to include. Information such as this:
When asked at the March 2017 briefing [of Judiciary Committee leaders] why the FBI relied on the dossier in the FISA applications absent meaningful corroboration — and in light of the highly political motives surrounding its creation — then-Director [James] Comey stated that the FBI included the dossier allegations about Carter Page in the FISA applications because Mr. Steele himself was considered reliable due to his past work with the Bureau. (Emphasis added.)
On this score, Grassley and Graham quote directly from the warrant applications: “Based on [Steele’s] previous reporting history with the FBI whereby [Steele] provided reliable information to the FBI, the FBI believes [Steele’s] reporting to be credible.” (Emphasis added.)
I cannot stress enough how irregular this is. It is why there is abundant reason to demand that the judge explain his or her rationale for granting the warrant.
As I outlined at greater length last week (here, in section C), in applying for a warrant, the government must establish the reliability of the informants who witnessed the alleged facts claimed to support a probable-cause finding. Steele was not one of those witnesses. He is not the source of the facts. He is the purveyor of the sources — anonymous Russians, much of whose alleged information is based on hearsay, sometimes multiple steps removed from direct knowledge. Steele has not been in Russia since his cover as a British spy was blown nearly 20 years ago. He has sources, who have sources, who have sources . . . and so on. None of his information is better than third-hand; most of it is more attenuated than that.
For purposes of justifying a warrant, it does not matter that, in a totally unrelated investigation (involving corruption at FIFA, the international soccer organization), the FBI judged that the hearsay information provided by Steele, then a British agent, checked out. In his anti-Trump research, Steele could not verify his sources. Furthermore, he was now a former foreign intelligence officer who was then working for private clients — which is the advocacy business, not the search-for-truth business.” (Read more: National Review, 2/10/2018)